Ambassador Lenain at the Indian Defence and Aerospace Summit 2019

Address of H.E. Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India at the Indian Defence and Aerospace Summit 2019.

New Delhi, 19 October 2019

“Vision and Plan: India-France strategic partnership”

Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Bipin Rawat,
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria,
Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Karambir Singh,
Ambassadors,
Defence Secretary, Dr Ajay Kumar,
Chairman - DRDO, Dr G Sateesh Reddy,
Distinguished members of the military and diplomatic corps,

I would like to thank the organizers of this conference for giving me the opportunity to speak about THE partnership that is foundation of the great relations between India and my country.

Please allow me at the outset, to address a word of thanks to Ashish Singh, the man behind the scenes who has been working long hours to make this event happen. So, my warmest thanks to you, Ashish, for bringing this Summit and this distinguished audience together.

Ashish happens to be – but there is no coincidence in life - a France-India Young Leader, and we are very proud to count him among the numerous friends of our country.

This year’s conference has an exciting subject and an exciting prospect.

Just my first weeks in India were enough to see that this is not only a historic partnership – we proudly celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year – and an all-weather partnership – it helped us steer through numerous storms, for example during the nuclear tests of 1998 or the Kargil war of 1999 - in but it is also a dynamic partnership, a partnership for the future, because it is based on a common vision of the world.

For an ambassador who has just taken office, I could not dream more of a more exhilarating mission: building on solid foundations, to open the new frontiers of our strategic partnership.

Let me share of a few ideas with you :

Strategic issues and interest have always been at the core of our bilateral relationship

It was, in fact, in the areas of defense and aerospace that we began to build this relationship of trust, immediately after India became an independent and sovereign nation. As early as 1953, India signed its first contract with Dassault Aviation for around 70 Ouragan fighter planes, nicely renamed “Toofani” by the Indian Air Force. These were soon followed by the Mystère IV, the naval Alizé, the Jaguar, the Mirage 2000 in the 80s, and, most recently, the Rafale. Cooperations involving production in India was developed as early as in the 60s on light helicopters, radars, antitank missiles and other defence and aerospace technologies. In the 60s, our space agencies began to cooperate on launcher and propulsion technology. We are also proud to be building state-of-the-art Scorpene submarines under licence in Mumbai since 2005. Operational cooperation between our armed forces has developed in parallel. For more than twenty years now, our navies have been working and exercising together in the Indian Ocean.

We gave coherence to these different types of cooperation in 1998 by placing them under the framework of a strategic partnership and addressing them every year at a high level during an institutional dialogue. Here, I have a special thought for the former President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. He and Mr Vajpayee were the founders of this partnership. Convinced that the world needs India, France was by India’s side in 1998 – a difficult time, as you would recall. It only in difficult time that you can count your friends!

And this strategic partnership has grown steadfastly to enable our two countries to better understand new threats: combatting terrorism, of course, and, more recently, maritime security and cyberspace.

It is built on concrete cooperation and on a shared vision: on terrorism, maritime and space security, cyberspace and digital technology, our two country have converging interests.

This strategic partnership has provided excellent foundations for our bilateral relations, which are solid and marked by trust. This is what explains our steadfast support for India’s bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council.

The changing geopolitical context, both at the international and regional levels, has enhanced the strategic value and nature of our partnership. We realized that our two countries had more in common than we had anticipated.

As the Indo-Pacific space started undergoing reconfiguration, we realized that India and France shared much more than a presence in the region : we have common security and economic interests. This was one of the main messages of the President of the French Republic during his State visit to India in 2018. I can tell you that enhancing the Indo-Pacific partnership will be at the heart of my mission in India.

Because, above all, we share the same vision for this region: the guarantee of freedom and safety of navigation, stability through the emergence of a multipolar order, prosperity through sustainable development projects.

Given the serious challenges to multilateralism today, France and India both stand for principles that are now under threat: respect for international law and agreements, choice of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve disputes, ambition for a renewed multilateralism, taking into account the reality of today’s world with its new actors and issues.

This context calls for an upgraded strategic partnership: not only mutual support, but also a basis for coordinated, joint action.

Let me highlight two ambitions in this area:

First, to do even more together in the Indo-Pacific in the field of maritime safety.

  • To elaborate, there’s maritime situation awareness, for which we must continue our efforts to achieve a unified assessment: we exchange monitoring data as part of our agreements, we share interpretations (and we are delighted as such that the French liaison officer will soon join his post at IFC-IOR), we are even building capacity with the ongoing project of CNES and ISRO on a constellation of satellites for maritime surveillance.
  • Next, there’s interoperability, which is the necessary condition for joint action between the three wings of our armed forces and has become a central objective of all our military exercises. The last editions of the Varuna naval exercise and the Garuda air exercise have reached unprecedented levels in this regard. Finally, exercise Shakti will take place next month.
  • Lastly, the need to go beyond our strictly bilateral and look for synergies with other actors in the region. They could be either those who share our values ​​and our capabilities and can join our initiatives, or those who can benefit from them. We need to think about coordinating our actions, whether they concern operations or capacity building, towards guaranteeing the security and stability of the region.

A shared analysis of the situation, an enhanced ability to act together, coordinated or even common actions that draw on our respective strengths in the Indo-Pacific : this is the roadmap of our strategic partnership for the next few years.

We need to have a broad conception of maritime issues, which are not reduced to only their security/defense aspects, but also involve issues such as the prevention of environmental risks, the protection of marine biodiversity, and the resilience of coastal infrastructure. In these areas, too, we must act together and act strategically.

The second ambition is to increase exchanges on cyber defense and space defense.

As these areas become the new battlegrounds, it is important that our two countries share their threat assessment and their response options to move towards a coordinated strategy. This year’s restart of the UN process to promote stability and security in cyberspace gives us a platform to accent its benefits.

To conclude, I would like to highlight a method to achieve these two ambitions:

  • first of all, regardless of the stakes, adherence to the values ​​that characterize our two democracies, including the protection of individual freedoms and respect for the rule of law. These "old" values ​​should be our guide when we look for answers to "new" challenges – as in cyberspace – or renewed challenges – as in the fight against terrorism;
  • then, reliability. If our strategic trust is at an unprecedented high, it is because we have been able to count on one another at all times. We will maintain this mutual support, whatever it takes;
  • co-construction. The solutions that work best are those that we have developed together. This is true both in terms of diplomacy and capabilities.
    You are well aware of France’s longstanding adherence to "Make in India" as a policy: it is an effort that we will continue to amplify and our proposals, particularly for armaments, will always bear this mark. As such, France is ready to contribute to India’s priority of modernizing its forces.
    More generally, we are very keen on expanding our partnership in research and innovation. How we tackle the technological challenges today will decide how tomorrow’s world will shape up. This is even truer with the digital transformation our societies have embarked on. The partnership for critical digital infrastructure between ATOS and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing is an example to emulate: let’s pool our expertise to provide state-of-the-art technology for tomorrow;
  • Lastly, initiative. It is often easier, and more reassuring, to simply react. However, we will effectively promote our vision only if we take initiatives, if we proactively propose solutions, if we work to secure a compromise when necessary. France believes in being bold. As evidenced by President Macron’s invitation to India to the G7 Summit in Biarritz, last August, France wishes to be the partner of the emerging global India.

Thank you !

Last modified on 06/11/2019

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